Our cover story and extended feature on the Paris climate conference is led by two of the world’s leading climate scientists – Professor Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and our own Scientia Professor Matthew England, from the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Climate System Science.

Professor Rahmstorf is visiting UNSW, working with Professor England at the CCRC and the pair sat down with the UNSW magazine for a Q&A. Covering a range of topics from the chances of a legally binding agreement, climate change denial and need for policy action, it is a compelling read.

At the Paris conference we hope that participants will negotiate a new international agreement on carbon emissions that aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Stefan was one of the panellists at our Climate for Change event on 10 November. The packed audience at our first Forum@UNSW event, which was held in partnership with the Sydney Morning Herald, also heard from Peter Hartcher (SMH), Geoff Cousins (Australian Conservation Foundation), Anika Molesworth (2015 Young Farmer of the Year) and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick (UNSW CCRC) with Robyn Williams (ABC Science Show) moderating the panel discussion.

UNSW is a leader in climate science research, as well as being at the forefront of developing solutions and new policy and legal frameworks. This includes our world record-holding photovoltaic research, groundbreaking work in green manufacturing, the development of low carbon solutions for the design and building of our cities, and legal frameworks to manage the forced displacement of people from climate-related events.

We have launched our UNSW climate change “Grand Challenge” as the first of a series of challenges that will be the subject of discussion, debate and policy formulation as part of UNSW’s 2025 Strategy. Our intention is to ensure that UNSW plays a role as an international forum for thought leadership. Future grand challenges could include energy, water, equality, migration, urbanisation, ageing, poverty and security.

Our grand challenges initiative sits within our priority of social engagement, alongside academic excellence and global impact as priorities in our new strategic plan. We will deliver the ambitious objectives of the 2025 strategy through a steady, carefully planned and determined process over the next decade. My thanks to you all for making the development of our strategy such a stimulating and exciting process.

Professor Ian Jacobs